Have a Heart, Malaysia

rohinya,boat

I once spoke to a 10-year-old girl who told me how she and her family hid inside a bus, escaping from the Myanmar army as their village was destroyed and villagers killed, including her grandparents.

She told me stories of how they endured crawling through deep waters and thick woods in the dead of night, ever so fearful of being caught.

Upon embarking on a small boat with dozens of others like herself in Thailand, her father promised them that their lives would change for the better the moment they reached Malaysia. Full of hope, she hugged her shivering little sister throughout the turbulent journey.

Upon reaching Malaysian waters, their boat was detained by the authorities. Her father was taken to a detention centre with the other men. Her mom took care of her and her three other siblings in a strange country all by themselves.

The first few weeks in Malaysia were the toughest she claimed. They slept on the streets and scavenged for food. She cried as she recalled her father’s promise which turned out to be nothing but lies.

It has been two years since the day she arrived. With her father still in detention, her mom washes dishes at food stalls to make ends meet. She doesn’t earn much, just enough for rental and simple food for the four of them.

Once in a while when they are pressed for money by officers in uniform, they are left without even a sen, and resort to begging instead.

Accompanying the girl home one day, I found myself in a low cost flat in the middle of KL city. Upon receiving a warm welcome from some 20 others sharing the tiny two room flat, I was taken to a corner and introduced to the girl’s mom and siblings.

To my surprise, I was served a can of Coke and invited to join them for lunch – a humble plate of plain rice and boiled veggie. As I took my first mouthful, I observed all the big smiles surrounding me – it was truly heart-warming.

They had nothing much to give, yet they gave everything they had.

I am not a politician and I may not know much about politics, but I know for a fact that these people we call refugees are not coming to our country to steal our wealth or disrupt our peace. They just want to survive – not even live, just survive.

Right now, there are thousands of Rohingya refugees like the people I met in that tiny flat, who are stranded at sea, starving and diseased because we are too arrogant to open our doors to them.

We have so much, yet behave as if we could lose it all.

These refugees have committed no crime nor breached any law by coming to our country and seeking protection. I do not understand the revulsion against our fellow human beings trying to keep their families alive, wanting to escape a darker, sadder life of despair, hardship and poverty back home.

On numerous occasions we have lent our hand to Palestinians and Syrians in the name of Muslim brotherhood – why are we turning our backs now on our Rohingyan brothers and sisters?

We have shamelessly been announcing to the world how Islamic we are, with our religious clerics preaching about the ways of Islam and our government upholding the image of Islam in our country. Does Islam teach us to push away others who are in dire need of our help?

Why are our muftis and ustazs keeping mum over this issue? What do our Rulers as the leaders of Islam think of our government’s decision to turn the Rohingyans away? Where are the countries in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)? Where are the rich oil-producing Islamic countries? Why isn’t anyone doing anything to help these destitute refugees?

How could we, dear Malaysians, lead a meaningful life and think that our comfort is worth more than the life of another human being? What sick pleasure do we get in forcing them to return to the high seas if only to die?

Please Malaysia, let your voices be heard. We need to pressure our government to open our doors to those in need. Let us not forget that the issue of refugees is primarily a humanitarian, not security issue for nations to consider.

Stop being selfish, Malaysia. Have a heart.

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